Title: Rife – Twenty-One Stories from Britain’s Youth

Author: Nikesh Shukla (ed.)

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Unbound

The Blurb

Young people in this country are facing a chasm of doubt and instability. Mental health problems are widespread, university fees are rising, job opportunities are drying up, and the prospect of ever owning a home is increasingly out of reach. But this generation is noticeably absent from the opinion columns, comment pieces and news reports of the mainstream media.

From the creative minds behind Rife magazine comes this anthology of twenty passionate voices, all under the age of twenty-four, writing across a spectrum of topics that matter to them. It holds a mirror up to the experience of young people in the UK today, with essays on money, mental health, sex, gender, inequality, education, crime and the future.

Bracing, honest and set against what can often seem an apocalyptic backdrop, these stories are nevertheless full of ideas and solidarity to draw on through these uncertain times.

The Review

Rife is a collection of stories about the problems that Britain’s Youth face today. These stories and essays cover mental health, sexual abuse, financial problems among many more. The collection highlights the struggles and shows you how the knock on effect from the previous generation are so impactful today.

I won’t lie, I struggled with this collection. This is for two reasons. The first being that I tried to read it in one gulp and Rife isn’t really the kind of book you can do that in. It needs to act as a palate cleanser. Maybe a commute read. Secondly, I felt that it was a little bit southern-centric. There were a few stories telling how northerners struggle but the majority featured writers living in the south and without trying to create division there is a divide between the north/south experience. However, Rife is a gritty, engaging read and the essays in it shouldn’t be dismissed.

Rife – Twenty-One Stories from Britain’s Youth by Nikesh Shukla is available now.

For more information regarding Nikesh Shukla (@nikeshshukla) please visit his Twitter page.

For more information regarding Unbound (@unbounders) please visit www.unbound.com.

Title: The Windsor Knot

Author: SJ Bennett

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Zaffre/Bonnier Books

The Blurb

The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties – now available to pre-order in hardback, eBook and audiobook. 

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place. For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

The Windsor Knot is the first book in the ‘Her Majesty The Queen Investigates‘ mystery series by SJ Bennett – for fans of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin.

The Review

You know what? Life is still a bit pants at the moment. We are still restricted to what we can do (it is June 2021 as I write this) and very little is making me feel good. Enter The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett. This cosy crime is a wonderful story which positions the Queen as a Sherlock Holmes-esque character solving crimes and then going to walk the corgis. It is truly a wonderful read.

SJ Bennett’s mystery takes place at Windsor Castle after a soiree thrown by the queen. One of the quests is found murdered and the police try to solve the crime and keep the salacious gossip out of the papers. Little do they know that the Queen is a dab hand at solving mysteries. The race is on to see who will get to the crux of the murder first.

I really, really enjoyed The Windsor Knot. It was comforting and I finished it hoping against hope that the Queen has enjoyed a spot of crime solving during her years on the thrown. I think it would be truly wonderful

The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett is available now.

For more information regarding SJ Bennett (@sophiabennett) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Zaffre (@ZaffreBooks) please visit www.bonnierbooks.co.uk.

For more information regarding Bonnier Books (@bonnierbooks_uk) please visit www.bonnierbooks.co.uk.

Title: Hamnet

Author: Maggie O’Farrell

Pages: 372 Pages

Publisher: Headline

The Blurb

TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home? 

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

The Review

I love stories of sidelined characters throughout history. Alison Weir has created magic by telling the stories of Henry the 8ths wives and Maggie O’Farrell has created alchemy with her story about William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet.

Part of the brilliance about Hamnet is that we don’t really know a lot about Shakespeare beyond his plays. This gives O’Farrell great scope in creating a story using what little we do know to paint this brilliant tapestry of Shakespeare’s life.

O’Farrell took me to Shakespearean England. I was there through the tribulations of Shakespeare branching out. I witnessed his wedding and the birth of his children. I wept along with characters. That is the power of Hamnet.

It is a brilliant book and worthy of all the prizes and accolades bestowed upon it.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is available now.

For more information regarding Headline (@headinepg) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase

Author: Jane Riley

Pages: 338 Pages

Publisher: Lake Union

The Blurb

His dying wish was to set her free. So why does she feel so trapped?

Jack had two dying wishes: that his wife scatter his ashes somewhere ‘exotic’, and that she not give up on life once he was gone. He intended to spur her on to new adventures, but despite clinging to her red suitcase, Geraldine Verne hasn’t left the house for three months.

It takes an accident for Geri to accept help from her friends, but when Meals on Wheels arrive she is mortified. Yet heartbroken volunteer Lottie brings with her more than cottage pie and custard. Like Geri, she too is struggling to cut loose.

As a gloriously unlikely friendship blossoms, Geraldine begins to feel a long-lost spark of life and a newfound confidence. Perhaps what both women needed most, after all, was each other.

The Review

There are some book themes that are hard to read. They bring you down or take you to a place that you don’t want to go to and you would think that a book which revolves around the theme of grief would be a book you would want to stay away from. Not Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase. It is simply wonderful.

Geraldine Verne’s husband has recently died and our journey with Geraldine through the novel is watching how she deals with grief and ultimately acceptance of her new situation. Her life without her beloved Jack.

Ultimately, Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase is a celebration of life, love, and the people who stick by you in the hard times and the knowledge that you will survive grief. Similar to The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase is a life affirming warm hug of a book and one you should all add to your TBR.

Geraldine Verne’s Red Suitcase by Jane Riley is available now.

For more information regarding Jane Riley (@JaneRileyAuthor) please visit www.linktr.ee/janeriley.

Title: Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life

Author: Caroline Day

Pages: 464 Pages

Publisher: Bonnier Books

The Blurb

Completely unique concept and writing style – written in the voice of Hope who has FAS (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome)

‘I don’t have any friends, only dog ones, because they don’t make you do bad things. I don’t want any human friends, actually. It’s for the best.’

Hope Nicely hasn’t had an easy life.

But she’s happy enough living at 23 Station Close with her mum, Jenny Nicely, and she loves her job, walking other people’s dogs. She’s a bit different, but as Jenny always tells her, she’s a rainbow person, a special drop of light.

It’s just . . . there’s something she needs to know. Why did her birth mother abandon her in a cardboard box on a church step twenty-five years ago? And did she know that drinking while pregnant could lead to Hope being born with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder?

In a bid to find her birth mother and the answers to these questions, Hope decides to write her autobiography. Despite having been bullied throughout school, Hope bravely joins an evening class where Hope will not only learn the lessons of writing, but will also begin to discover more about the world around her, about herself and even make some (human) friends.

But when Jenny suddenly falls ill, Hope realises there are many more lessons to come . . .

Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life is a heartwarming, coming-of-age novel about loneliness, friendship, acceptance and, above all, hope.

The Review

Hope Nicely’s story is powerful. That is the first thing I need to say. It isn’t powerful in that whole knock you over with drama kind of way. It is subtle and quiet but it has the lasting kind of power. Hope Nicely has a medical condition. She has FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder), for those who don’t know a lot about this – I myself am someone who doesn’t know enough – this means that she has a developmental disorder which makes every day life a little bit harder for her. She sets out with a mission to write her autobiography with the belief that her birth mum will find it, read it and explain why she abandoned her.

The book follows a certain period of her life that challenges her in ways that people with developmental issues would find distressing but we watch how she Hope Nicely deals with these challenges. It is a wonderful coming of age story and gives the reader an insight into the world of someone with this condition. I have worked with students with this disorder and I feel having read this book I now feel I have a more lived in experience of what they may be going through or how they see the world. I feel that I have gained a lot more empathy for having read this story and for that I thank Caroline Day for writing it.

Hope Nicely’s Lessons for Life by Caroline Day is available from 22nd July 2021.

For more information regarding Bonnier Books (@bonnierbooks_uk) please visit www.bonnierbooks.co.uk.